Robert Fripp (born 16 May 1946) is an English guitarist, composer and record producer.
As a guitarist for the progressive rock band King Crimson, Fripp has been the only member to have played in all of King Crimson's line-ups from the late 1960s to the early 2010s. He has also worked extensively as a studio musician, notably with singer David Bowie on the albums "Heroes" and Scary Monsters, and contributed sounds to the Windows Vista operating system. His complete discography lists more than seven hundred releases over four decades.
He is ranked 62nd on Rolling Stone magazine's 2011 list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" after having been ranked by David Fricke 42nd on its 2003 list. Tied with Andrés Segovia, he also is ranked 47th on Gibson.com's "Top 50 guitarists of all time".
His compositions often feature unusual time signatures, which have been influenced by classical and folk traditions. His innovations have included Frippertronics, soundscapes, and New standard tuning.
Fripp was born in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, England. His earliest professional work began in 1967, when he responded to an advertisement looking for a singing organist for a band being formed by brothers bassist Peter Giles and drummer Michael Giles, despite being neither a singer nor an organist. Though unsuccessful as a live act, Giles, Giles and Fripp released two singles, as well as an album, The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp.
Early King Crimson
Following the band's break-up, Fripp, along with drummer Michael Giles, made plans for the formation of King Crimson in 1968, with Greg Lake, Peter Sinfield and Ian McDonald. Their first album, In the Court of the Crimson King, was released in late 1969 to great success, and is now regarded as one of the most influential albums in the history of progressive rock. Because of musical differences with Giles and McDonald, King Crimson broke up shortly after the release of the first album, to be re-formed again several times over the years. Initially Fripp offered to leave the group; however, Giles and McDonald announced that they were going to leave anyway, and so Fripp remained in order to keep Crimson going. He has remained the only consistent member of the band since. Crimson went through a number of line-ups before Fripp disbanded the group for the first time in 1974.
Side projects and collaborations
During King Crimson's less active periods, Fripp pursued a number of side-projects. He worked with Keith Tippett (and others who appeared on King Crimson records) on projects far from rock music, playing with and producing Centipede's Septober Energy in 1971 and Ovary Lodge in 1973. During this period he also worked with Van der Graaf Generator, playing on the 1970 album H to He, Who Am the Only One, and in 1971, on Pawn Hearts. He produced Matching Mole's 2nd LP Matching Mole's Little Red Record in 1972. Prior to forming the Larks-era KC, he collaborated on a spoken-word album with a woman he described as "a witch" but the resulting recording - Robert Fripp & Walli Elmark: The Cosmic Children Of Love - was never officially released. Collaborating with Brian Eno, he recorded (No Pussyfooting) in 1972, and Evening Star in 1974. These two albums featured experimentation with several novel musical techniques, including a tape delay system utilising dual reel to reel Revox tape machines that would come to play a central role in Fripp's later work. This system came to be known as "Frippertronics". In 1973, Fripp performed the blistering guitar solo on Baby's on Fire, perhaps the best-known track on Eno's debut solo album Here Come the Warm Jets. In 1975, Fripp and Brian Eno played several live shows in Europe, and Fripp also contributed melodic and soaring guitar solos throughout Eno's groundbreaking Another Green World album.
Fripp spent some time away from the music industry in the later 1970s, during which he cultivated an interest in the teachings of Gurdjieff via J. G. Bennett (studies which would later be influential in his work with Guitar Craft). He returned to musical work as a studio guitarist on Peter Gabriel's first self-titled album in 1976, released the following year. Fripp toured with Gabriel to support the album, but remained out of sight (either in the wings or behind a curtain) and used the pseudonym "Dusty Rhodes." He produced and played on Gabriel's second album in 1978.
In 1977, Fripp received a phone call from Eno, who was working on David Bowie's album "Heroes". Fripp and Eno had collaborated on an album released in 1975 called Evening Star. On this album and in particular on the recording An Index of Metals there are strains that would influence the Bowie project two years later - most notably Side Two of the Bowie album. Fripp agreed to play guitar for Bowie's Heroes album, a move that initiated a series of collaborations with other musicians. Fripp soon collaborated with Daryl Hall on Sacred Songs. During this period, Fripp began working on solo material, with contributions from poet/lyricist Joanna Walton and several other musicians, including Eno, Gabriel, and Hall, as well as Peter Hammill, Jerry Marotta, Phil Collins, Tony Levin and Terre Roche. This material eventually became his first solo album, Exposure, released in 1979, followed by the Frippertronics tour in the same year. While living in New York, Fripp contributed to albums and live performances by Blondie (Parallel Lines) and Talking Heads (Fear of Music), and produced The Roches' first and third albums, which featured several of Fripp's characteristic guitar solos. A second set of creative sessions with David Bowie produced distinctive guitar parts on Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980) and prior to that, Peter Gabriel's third solo album known as 'Melt'. With Blondie, Fripp appeared live on stage at Hammersmith Odeon on 12 January 1980 participating in the band's cover version of Bowie's Heroes. This recording was released on the 12" single of Atomic released the same year and later turned up as a bonus track on CD pressings of Blondie's album Eat to the Beat.
Fripp's collaboration with bassist Busta Jones, drummer Paul Duskin, and vocals by David Byrne (Byrne credited as Absalm el Habib) produced God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners in the following year. He simultaneously assembled what he called a "second-division touring new wave instrumental dance band" under the name League of Gentlemen, with bassist Sara Lee, keyboardist Barry Andrews and drummer Johnny Toobad (later replaced by Kevin Wilkinson). The LOG toured for the duration of 1980.
In the early and mid-1990s Fripp contributed guitar/soundscapes to Lifeforms (1994) by The Future Sound of London and Cydonia (released 2001) by The Orb, as well as FFWD, a collaborative effort with the latter's members. In addition, Fripp worked with Brian Eno co-writing and supplying guitar to two tracks for a CD-ROM project released in 1994 entitled Headcandy created by Chris Juul and Doug Jipson. Eno thought the visual aspects of the disc (video feedback effects) were very disappointing upon completion, and regretted participation. During this period, Fripp also contributed to albums by No-Man (a band featuring Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson) and The Beloved (1994's Flowermouth and 1996's X, respectively). He also contributed soundscapes and guitar to two albums by the UK band Iona: 1993's Beyond These Shores and 1996's Journey into the Morn. He also provided guitar and soundscapes for Porcupine Tree's album Fear of a Blank Planet.
In 2006 Fripp contributed his composition "At The End Of Time" to the Artists for Charity album Guitarists 4 the Kids, produced by Slang Productions, to assist World Vision Canada in helping underprivileged children.
King Crimson again
1981 saw the formation of King Crimson's fourth incarnation, along with complementary lead guitarist, lyricist, and singer Adrian Belew, percussionist Bill Bruford, and bassist Tony Levin, who contributed backing vocals. The group was conceptualised under the name Discipline, but it came to Fripp's attention that the other members thought the name King Crimson was more appropriate. For Fripp, King Crimson had always been a way of doing things, rather than a particular group of musicians, and the group felt that their music captured that methodology. After releasing three albums (Discipline, Beat, Three of a Perfect Pair), this new King Crimson broke up in 1984.
During this period Fripp made two records with his old friend Andy Summers of The Police. On I Advance Masked, Fripp and Summers played all the instruments. Bewitched was dominated more by Summers, who produced the record and collaborated with other musicians in addition to Fripp.
In 1982 Fripp produced and played guitar on Keep on Doing by The Roches. As in his previous guesting on David Bowie's Scary Monsters (which also boasted Pete Townshend and Chuck Hammer on infinite sustain guitar), the "skysaw" guitar style that characterised this period of Fripp's pedagogy is featured alongside the sisters' songs and harmony.
Fripp was offered a teaching position at the American Society for Continuous Education (ASCE) in Claymont Court, West Virginia in 1984. He had been involved with the ASCE since 1978, eventually serving on its board of directors, and had long been considering the idea of teaching guitar. His course, Guitar Craft, was begun in 1985, an offshoot of which was a performance group, "The League of Crafty Guitarists", which has released several albums. In 1986, he released the first of two collaborations with his wife, Toyah Willcox. The members of the California Guitar Trio are former members of The League of Crafty Guitarists, and Gitbox Rebellion includes several former Guitar Craft students. The California Guitar Trio has also toured with King Crimson. Fripp is the patron of the Guitar Circle of Europe, which was founded in 2007, and of the Seattle Circle Guitar School, which was founded in 2010.
In February 2009, Fripp recommended that Guitar Craft cease to exist on its 25th anniversary in 2010.
Fripp returned to recording solo in 1994, using an updated version of the Frippertronics technique that creates loops employing digital technology instead of analogue tapes. Fripp has released a number of records that he called "Soundscapes", including 1999, Radiophonics, A Blessing of Tears, That Which Passes, November Suite, The Gates of Paradise, Love Cannot Bear and At the End of Time, as well as numerous download-only live recordings. (The sampler Pie Jesu consists of material compiled from A Blessing of Tears and The Gates of Paradise.)
Fripp's collaborations with David Sylvian feature some of his most exuberant guitar playing. Fripp contributed to Sylvian's twenty-minute track "Steel Cathedrals" from his Alchemy: An Index of Possibilities album of 1985. Then Fripp performed on several tracks from Sylvian's 1986 release, Gone to Earth.
In late 1991, Fripp had asked Sylvian to join a re-forming King Crimson as a vocalist. Sylvian declined the invitation, but proposed a possible collaboration between the two that would eventually become a tour of Japan and Italy in the spring of 1992. In July 1993, Sylvian and Fripp released the collaborative effort The First Day. Other contributors were soon-to-be King Crimson member Trey Gunn on stick and nearly-was King Crimson member Jerry Marotta on drums. When the group toured to promote the CD, future King Crimson member Pat Mastelotto took over the drumming spot. The live document Damage was released in 1994, as was the joint venture, Redemption – Approaching Silence, which featured Sylvian's ambient sound sculptures (Approaching Silence) accompanying Fripp reading his own text (Redemption).
King Crimson redux
In late 1994, Fripp re-formed the 1981 line-up of King Crimson for its fifth incarnation, adding Trey Gunn and drummer Pat Mastelotto in a configuration known as the "double trio" (the line-up included two guitars, two bass/Stick players and two drummers). This line-up released the VROOOM EP in 1994, and the Thrak full album in 1995; also in 1994 he supplied guitar textures on the track Flak on The Future Sound of London's album Lifeforms.
From 1997 to 1999, and again in 2006, the band King Crimson "fraKctalised" into five sub-groups known as ProjeKcts.
2000 saw the release of a studio album, The ConstruKction of Light, from a sixth line-up of King Crimson (Fripp, Adrian Belew, Trey Gunn, Pat Mastelotto) with The Power to Believe following in 2003. At the end of the year Gunn decided to leave the band. In March 2004, a seventh line-up had been formulated and practised with Tony Levin returning to replace Trey Gunn, although nothing happened beyond a few studio rehearsals and the band remained inactive again until 2007.
In 2007 Gavin Harrison joined the group to perform as a second drummer, and this new line-up played a short tour in the eastern US in August 2008. In 2010, Fripp announced that King Crimson were on indefinite hiatus.
During 2004, Fripp toured with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai as the guitar trio G3. Fripp worked at Microsoft's studios to record new sounds and atmospheres for Windows Vista.
In late 2005 and early 2006, Fripp joined Bill Rieflin's improvisational Slow Music project, along with guitarist Peter Buck, Fred Chalenor (acoustic bass), Matt Chamberlain (drums) and Hector Zazou (electronics). This collective of musicians toured the west coast in May 2006. In October 2006, ProjeKct Six (Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew) played at select venues on the east coast of the U.S., opening for Porcupine Tree. Throughout 2006, Fripp performed many solo concerts of soundscapes in intimate settings, especially in churches around the West Midlands in England, where he lives.
Fripp has contributed soundscapes to two songs for Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet. He is featured on the tracks "Way Out of Here" and "Nil Recurring," the second of which was released in September 2007 as part of the "Nil Recurring" EP. Fripp has also sporadically performed Soundscapes as an opening act for Porcupine Tree on various tours from 2006 through 2009. In 2008, he collaborated with Theo Travis on 'Thread', an album of guitar & flute or saxophone duets. They also did some live concerts in England in mid-2009 in support of that album. Fripp also played a 2009 concert with the band The Humans, which consists of his wife Toyah Willcox, Bill Rieflin and Chris Wong. The performance in Tartu marked the release of The Humans's first album We Are the Humans.
Fripp (along with Pat Mastelotto and others) appears on Judy Dyble's (Giles, Giles & Fripp; Fairport Convention; Trader Horne) album Talking With Strangers released August 2009. Fripp also played on two tracks on Jakko M. Jakszyk's album The Bruised Romantic Glee Club and has been collaborating, casually, with Jakszyk and former Crimson member Mel Collins. Jakszyk is married to Michael Giles' younger daughter Amanda. Fripp also contributed with a guitar solo to an extended version of the song 'Heathen Child' by Grinderman in 2010, released as a B-side on the single under the title 'Super Heathen Child'.
In January 2010, Fripp began recording sessions for a full project with Jakko Jakszyk and Mel Collins (a former King Crimson member). The album, called A Scarcity of Miracles: A King Crimson ProjeKct, was released by Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins in May 2011 on the Panegyric label. It also features further contributions by Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison, members of the most recent King Crimson lineup.
In an interview published 3 August 2012, Fripp stated that he had retired from working as a professional musician, citing long-standing differences with Universal Music Group and stating that working within the music industry had become "a joyless exercise in futility". The retirement proved to be short-lived, as Fripp announced the return to King Crimson as a seven-piece unit with "four Englishmen and three Americans", including sometime R.E.M. and Nine Inch Nails drummer Bill Rieflin and returning bassist Tony Levin, on his online diary entry for 6 September 2013.
On Monday, 24 September 2012, a new collaborative album with Theo Travis was released called Follow.
During the early years of King Crimson (1968–74), Fripp used two Gibson Les Paul guitars from 1957 and 1959. The '57 guitar featured three humbucker pick-ups (with one volume control on the pickguard controlling the middle pick-up). A signature model named for the guitarist (Crimson Guitars Robert Fripp Signature) features Fernandes Sustainer and MIDI elements, with a Les Paul Model Body. Another difference from the Gibson Les Paul is that Fripp's guitar is built using a deep set neck tenon rather than a traditional set neck.
Fripp recommended that Guitar Craft students adopt the Ovation 1867 Legend steel-string guitar, which had a shallow body. "Fripp liked the way the Ovation 1867 fitted against his body, which made it possible for him to assume the right-arm picking position he had developed using electric guitars over the years; on deeper-bodied guitars, the Frippian arm position is impossible without uncomfortable contortions", according to Tamm. While the 1867 Legend is no longer manufactured, it influenced the design of the Guitar Craft Pro Model of Guitar Craft Guitars, which has been endorsed by Fripp.
Fripp began playing guitar at the age of eleven. When he started, he was tone deaf and had no rhythmical sense, weaknesses which led him later to comment "Music so wishes to be heard that it sometimes calls on unlikely characters to give it voice."
While being taught guitar basics by his teacher Don Strike, Fripp began to develop the technique of crosspicking, which became one of his specialities. Fripp teaches crosspicking to his students in Guitar Craft.
In 1985, Fripp began using a tuning he called "New Standard tuning", which would also become popularised in Guitar Craft.
Fripp's guitar technique, unlike most rock guitarists of his era, is not blues-based but rather influenced by avant-garde jazz and European classical music. He combines rapid alternate picking and crosspicking with motifs employing whole-tone or diminished pitch structures and sixteenth-note patterns for long stretches in a form called moto perpetuo (perpetual motion).
Fripp is left-handed, but plays guitar right-handed. Rather than stand when performing, he perches himself on a stool, and so by doing so has come to be tagged "the guitarist who sits on stage".
Fripp married Toyah Willcox in 1986 in Poole, Dorset. From December 1987 until July 1999 they lived at and renovated Reddish House, the former home of Cecil Beaton, in Broad Chalke Wiltshire. At present his home is in Pershore, Worcestershire. Fripp is the patron of the Seattle Circle Guitar School and the Shallal Dance Theatre in Penzance, England. He also has had engagements as a motivational speaker, often at events with his sister Patricia, who is a keynote speaker and speech coach.
Alfie Fripp, the last of the "39ers", shot down by the Luftwaffe and then held in 12 different POW camps during World War II, was his uncle.
Discipline Global Mobile
In 1992 Fripp founded Discipline Global Mobile (DGM) as an independent music label. DGM releases music by Fripp, KC, related acts, and other artists in CDs and in downloadable files. A 1998 Billboard profile stated that DGM had ten staff-members in Salisbury (England) and Los Angeles (USA). DGM has an aim "to be a model of ethical business in an industry founded on exploitation, oiled by deceit, riven with theft and fueled by greed." DGM insists that its artists retain all copyrights; consequently, even DGM's "knotwork" corporate-logo (pictured above) is owned by its designer, Steve Ball; the "knotwork" logo appeared earlier on the cover of later versions of the Discipline album. DGM's aims were called "exemplary" by Martin (1997), who wrote that "Fripp has done something very important for the possibilities of experimental music" in creating DGM, which "has played a major role in creating favorable conditions for" King Crimson.
DGM publishes an on-line diary by Fripp, who often comments on performances and on relations with fans. A moderated forum allows fans to ask questions or to leave comments. Together, Fripp's diary and the fan forum display delayed dialogs in which Fripp and fans discuss diary-entries and forum-postings. Fripp's public writing of his diary has challenged his readers to become more active listeners and intelligent participants in performances of music.
Copyright complaints against Grooveshark
In 2011, Fripp complained that the music-distribution service Grooveshark continued to stream his music despite his having delivered repeated takedown notices. Fripp and Grooveshark's correspondence was published by Digital Music News and in his diaries, which appear on the website of Discipline Global Mobile.
Fripp's published exchange was included in a suit against Grooveshark by Universal Music Group, which was filed in November 2011. UMG cited internal documents revealing that Grooveshark employees uploaded thousands of illegal copies of UMG-owned recordings. Fripp had previous experience protecting his music in litigation with music companies.
- Fripp, Robert (2011). Pozzo, Horacio, ed. Seven Guitar Craft themes: Definitive scores for guitar ensemble. "Original transcriptions by Curt Golden", "Layout scores and tablatures: Ariel Rzezak and Theo Morresi" (First limited ed.). Partitas Music. ISMN 979-0-9016791-7-7. DGM Sku partitas001.
- Smith, Sid (2001). In the court of King Crimson. Helter Skelter Publishing. ISBN 1-900924-26-9.